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CBU's New Collaboration with Alaska Airlines Opens Doors for Minority Aviation Aspirants

California Baptist University, in a landmark partnership with Alaska Airlines, introduces the 'True North' program to support minority aviation students in Riverside.

Dr. John Marselus, chair of the department of aviation science at CBU, Captain Ronald Limes, Alaska Airlines, (Front L to R) Dr. Charles D. Sands, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at CBU, and Andy Schneider, senior vice president of people at Alaska Airlines, sign the Alaska Airlines True North Pilot Development Program partnership agreement. (Courtesy California Baptist University)

California Baptist University (CBU) and Alaska Airlines announced a collaborative initiative on November 20, 2023, to support minority students aspiring to become pilots. The "True North" program, a pioneering effort on the West Coast, aims to provide up to $50,000 in flight training tuition support for eligible students and facilitate a direct pathway to becoming First Officers at Alaska Airlines upon graduation.

This partnership emerges from a shared commitment to enhancing diversity in the aviation industry, a sector where, as per a 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, racial and ethnic minorities remain significantly underrepresented. The report highlights that only 3.4 percent of airline pilots and related professionals are Black, with 2.2 percent being Asian and 5 percent Hispanic or Latino.

Dr. Charles D. Sands, CBU's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, emphasized the alignment of values between CBU and Alaska Airlines in addressing economic and professional barriers faced by minority groups. The initiative is expected to offer students from diverse backgrounds financial support, professional exposure, and experience with Alaska Airlines.

The CBU Aviation Science program, where 41 percent of students are from minority groups, serves as the foundation for this initiative. The program will select students through a faculty-led screening process at CBU. After earning their Instrument Rating, selected students will be eligible for tuition assistance and conditional employment offers from Alaska Airlines. Post-graduation, these students will commit to a five-year employment period with Alaska or Horizon Air.

Captain Ronald Limes, pilot outreach program director for Alaska Airlines, highlighted the True North program as a ground-breaking approach in the airline industry aimed at increasing the racial diversity of pilots and accelerating their career path within Alaska Airlines. He also acknowledged CBU's reputable Aviation Science program as a critical factor in this partnership.

This announcement follows CBU's recent reception of a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education aimed at improving education outcomes for Hispanic and low-income students. It reflects the university's ongoing efforts to foster opportunities and support for its diverse student body.